Chapter 13: From Stewardship to Place-Making and Place-Keeping by Mark D. Bjelland

(Photo courtesy of Mark D. Bjelland)

An illustrated companion to Chapter 12 of Beyond Stewardship: New Approaches to Creation Care. To view main webpage, click here:

I felt trapped in the city and dreamed of escape. ...Slowly, my attitudes began to change. ...fell in love with my city and its people, its history, its problems, its parks, its ghettos, its decrepit mills, and its hilltop mansions. ...In short, I learned to love and care for a place that was not my ideal but was the place that over time had become my home."
This pathway was once a dangerous and garbage-strewn stretch of sunken railway. Local mountain bikers discovered it and started building trails and advocating for a greenway. Today, Minneapolis’ Midtown Greenway is a 5.5-mile biking and walking trail. The greenway connects rich and poor neighborhoods and has encouraged a renaissance of walking and biking. Neighbors have built community gardens on adjacent, derelict lots. Developers have cleaned up polluted land and built apartments along its length. (Photo courtesy of Mark D. Bjelland)
Although it is tempting to associate environmental stewardship with living on a solar-powered organic farm far from city lights or doing ecological research in a pristine cloud forest, most of us should focus on the streets, fields, neighborhoods, watersheds, towns, and cities where we live."
Vancouver, British Columbia, is among the most environmentally sustainable North American cities. The city took a different path in the 1970s, rejecting urban freeways, protecting agricultural lands and watersheds in the suburbs, and creating car-free inner-city neighborhoods. By embracing urbanism, it leaves space for the rest of God’s creation. (Photo courtesy of Mark D. Bjelland)
Many Christians have rightly wondered how creation care relates to the great commandment to love God and our neighbor. The concept of place offers a path forward because places contain both human and nonhuman elements, social relationships, and ecological relationships. Places integrate all aspects of creation."
Left: Plants and shrubs offer a green respite on a pedestrian overpass of a busy Vancouver road. Right: Chicago’s Bloomingdale Trail returns an industrial corridor to human use. (Photos courtesy of Mark D. Bjelland)
In architecture and urban planning, placemaking refers to creating high-profile public places such as Chicago’s Millennium Park, while place-keeping refers to the care and maintenance of such spaces. ...Place-making and place-keeping encompass more of the breadth of Scripture than stewardship. We engage in place-making and place-keeping when we fill the earth, when we preserve God’s creation, and when we love our neighbors."
Chicago's Millennium Park
A place may be an old-growth forest or a city square surrounded by high-rise buildings and buzzing with human activity. Place-keeping is equally applicable in the Costa Rican rainforest and the scarred industrial landscapes of Flint, Michigan."
Left: The Costa Rican rain forest. Right: The closed and demolished 452-acre Buick City factory complex in Flint, Michigan. (Photo courtesy of Mark D. Bjelland)
The world’s cities are now home to 4 billion people and will capture virtually all of the world’s future population growth so that by 2050 they will house 6.7 billion people."
"Urban and Rural Population Projected to 2050" by Our World in Data, https://ourworldindata.org/urbanization

For a more thorough discussion of urbanization, both in the USA and globally, click the following link:

In Boston, Frederick Law Olmsted’s design for the Fens and Riverway restored a highly polluted and flood-prone landscape by implementing functional drainage and a rich habitat. It has become a wonderfully enjoyable emerald necklace running through the heart of the city."
The Boston Riverway and Back Bay Fens (Photos courtesy of Mark D. Bjelland)

To learn more about The Riverway and Olmsted Park, click the following links:

Places are mixtures of peoples and environments which contain both human and nonhuman elements. The interweaving of the social and the environmental means, for example, that the quality of one’s local environment is often connected to one’s socioeconomic status. ...pollution and the negative effects of climate change are disproportionately visited upon the poor."

To learn more about the environmental injustices in East Chicago, check out the following resources:

Our earthkeeping can begin close to home with place-making and place-keeping in the locations where we live, work, and play. These are the places where, hopefully, we feel a sense of attachment, have a degree of control, and exercise personal responsibility. Our calling is to live God’s shalom in our houses, gardens, streets, and neighborhoods, not just in wild, beautiful, or exotic landscapes. In short, we need to see the world through the lens of place so that we can begin to live faithfully in our places and learn to care for all their dimensions—soils, plants, animals, parks, buildings, neighborhoods, and people."

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